When the Big One hits, there’s a lovely ensemble of perfectly awful places in which to be stuck. Jail’s one of them.
C’mon you bunk huggers and futon snugglers. Get the heck out of bed. It’s just a perfect February day to go exploring in decades long gone by.
We’ll ride along the long-lost Saugus to the Sea Highway and teach you more than you thought you’d know about bees. There’s oddball burglaries, Old Testament floods, the best-dressed of the SCV and, well. What say you see for yourselves?
WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME
SORRY WE CAN’T HELP! WE’VE GOT MALARIA, CHICKEN POX & HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS THIS WEEKEND — The entire town of Newhall moved from its original location at Bouquet Junction (near present-day Saugus Café) to around 6th Street. Interestingly, around the same time, another community moved most of their buildings from Andrews to the 6th Street area. Andrews was the old stage stop, hotel, saloon, store and small town located about where Eternal Valley is today. When I say, “moved,” I mean both little towns literally took all the boards, beams, windows, doors, dogs and cats, put them in wagons and rolled them up or down the road as the case may be. The move started on Feb. 15, 1878, and took a couple weeks.
FEBRUARY 20, 1921
A LITTLE (LITERALLY!) NEWSPAPER TRIVIA — The Feb. 18th issue of The Signal was the last full-sized paper we printed until Oct. 28, 1926. For over five years, we were The Mighty Signal, but we were mighty tiny. We went to a tabloid size during that period.
BUT NOT pi r SQUARED — Newhall movie star and rodeo yard owner Buck Jones debuted his latest movie, “The Square Shooter,” in San Fernando. It t’weren’t a talkie, but, it was shot here in the good ol’ SCV. Buck and my uncle Fred would both die in the infamous Coconut Grove Fire in Boston in the 1940s.
FEBRUARY 20, 1931
PERHAPS IT WAS DWIGHT JURGENS, IN A PREVIOUS LIFETIME — Our local sheriff’s office was busy, stopping a Chinese laborer-smuggling operation in Saugus. Ironic. The Asian slaves literally went from being bound by chains to being bound by chains when they were carted off to Los Angeles, I guess, as evidence.
WHAT’S NEXT? OPERA? — We had cowboy crooners, jazz ensembles, hillbilly jug get-togethers and old-fashioned swing dance bands. But, on this date, the first high-brow local orchestra was founded. It was called the Newhall Musical Society.
I KNOW I’M STILL WAITING — On this date, the L.A. County Supervisors voted to approve $555,000 to build the Saugus-to-the-Sea Highway. Actually, the road was in Newhall and the start of it was that main drive that connects The Old Road to the Towsley Canyon lodge. That 13-mile STTS lane would eventually connect the SCV with the Pacific Ocean, via Chatsworth and on through Topanga Canyon. On the original plans, it would also fork over to Simi. Here’s a hot one for you. The supervisors also planned to build a prison in Castaic so they could use the jailbirds for road gang work to build Saugus-to-the-Sea. That prison would be Wayside Honor Farm. STTS would never be the huge highway its designers had intended, but they did build a humbler version of the road. You can still see Saugus-to-the-Sea on some of the even modern maps, even though it no longer goes anywhere.
FEBRUARY 21, 1936
THE SCV’S ONLY LEGITIMATE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE — died on this date. He was the Gerald Ford of his day, except for the small detail he never quite made president, despite running thrice. Henry Clay Needham was one of the valley’s founding fathers. He was a nationally renowned public figure and was the Prohibitionist Party’s candidate for presidency in 1920. Needham, however, had food poisoning the morning of his party’s convention and couldn’t accept the nomination. He was a bit accident-prone, falling off fences and ladders, and once, he was head-butted so hard by a billy goat, he had to take three months to convalesce. How did Arcadia Street in Newhall get its name? Arcadia, Kansas, was Needham’s home town (although he was born in Kentucky in 1879). Needham was also mayor of that city. He would write most of the foundation of the Prohibitionist platform. Needham would move to Newhall and, with wealthy friends, buy 10,000 acres from The Newhall Land & Farming Co. to start a Prohibitionist community. Small problem? No one wanted to sign a deed where they could lose their land if ANYONE were caught drinking on the property. He started the area’s first water company and owned two oil companies, named after two of his children, Pearl and Neil. He owned a restaurant and one of the SCV’s first gas stations. He also ran for governor and U.S. senator, losing both. On the bright side, he got more votes than socialist/novelist Upton Sinclair. A Prohibitionist to his grave, Needham would often find a drunk stumbling around town. He’d call local law enforcement and have the man arrested. Then, he’d pay his fine, spring him from jail, ask him to stop drinking and wish him happier days. Heck of a man.
FEBRUARY 20, 1941
THE FLOODS OF ’41 CONTINUED WITH A VENGEANCE —
The sixth MAJOR storm in a row hit the SCV, dumping 4 inches of rain in one day and closing Highway 99 and Soledad Canyon Road. Happy Valley was a lake. Again. Worse, folks there had more than a foot of mud in their homes. Flash floods washed out bridges and sent multi-ton trees careening down normally dry creeks. Again. Sand Canyon was completely cut off from the world for the second time in a week. The debris from raging Wiley Creek jammed under the bridge and trees were parked on 99, the state’s major artery. Newhall Water couldn’t pump its precious cargo to most homes and businesses. Cars parked on Newhall Avenue had been washed away by the floodwaters.
A MAJOR CASE OF HOOKY AT NEWHALL ELEMENTARY? — Teachers were wondering. Where’s the kids? Seems the town school bus had an accident crossing Highway 99. No one was hurt, but the bus was undriveable and parents had to be called to rescue their stranded children.
CHECK YOUR TIRE PRESSURE? READ YOU AN EDITORIAL? — On this date, DuVall Chevrolet bought The Signal. That’d be the gas station. Not the newspaper.
A STITCH IN TIME — Rita Hayworth and Tilly Brutch signed long-term contracts with Paramount Studios. Rita was the non-Newhall actress and Tilly was the Sand Canyon seamstress to the stars.
FEBRUARY 20, 1951
HISTORY. SOMETIMES, IT’S MORE THAN A LITTLE BIT CREEPY — His mother Martha came across the plains in a covered wagon in 1853. His father, Tom, sailed around Tierra del Fuego in 1849. Tom and Martha would marry and homestead land in the Sand Canyon area that would become a great ranch one day. Martha, by the way, was just a little kid when Tom spotted her and asked her father to consider a future marriage. Tom and Martha would have a son, Frank. He was born on Nov. 14, 1869, and was one of the first pupils at the second oldest school district in Los Angeles County and would grow to be a prominent rancher in the SCV. Frank Mitchell died on Feb. 13, 1951. His descendants still live in this valley today.
MUST’VE BEEN SCOTSMAN TOM FREW’S DINNER FOR UNEXPECTED COMPANY — Someone stole 25 large gunny sacks containing dry bread from the weekend cabin of David Kamins, Los Angeles mail carrier. With a straight face, investigating deputies noted they didn’t have a crumb of evidence. They didn’t ask why anyone was storing 25 large bags of dried stale bread, either.
FEBRUARY 20, 1961
TIMING’S EVERYTHING — Fire Prevention Week started the same day an arsonist burned down Fred Pardee’s wooden Placerita Canyon cabin.
FEBRUARY 20, 1971
PRISON LIFE/QUAKE LIFE — Lots of old timers and semi-old timers have their anecdotes about what it was like being jolted out of bed by the big Feb. 9 earthquake. One viewpoint that was rarely thought about was what it was like being locked in jail when the tumbler hit. Newhallian George Johnson was in the poky for marijuana possession and by his own volition, was rather nervous about his incarceration. He didn’t fall asleep until 4 a.m. and was awakened less than two hours later. He described metal beds shrieking against concrete floors, followed by screaming of everything from “EARTHQUAKE!!” to “THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING!!” There was much paranoia about the prisoners being crushed in the locked cells and rumors about the valley being flooded and everyone drowning. About four hours after the quake, a guard came to the cell and told the inmates not to drink the water from their sink taps.
FEBRUARY 20, 1981
DISCO CALLED. THEY WANT RICK PATTERSON’S SUIT BACK — Forty years ago, special editions Editor Walt Cieplik and The Mighty Signal staff produced a 100-page magazine entitled: “1981 and Beyond, A Chronicle of Growth in the Santa Clarita Valley.” In it was an article on the best-dressed men and women in the valley and included in the top 20 was local attorney Rick Patterson of today’s OPO — in a plaid jacket, bell bottoms, helmet hair and a tie about 18 inches wide.
HOME OF THE MIGHTY INDIANS — The financially strapped Hart High got an unusual infusion of cash. NBC and the producers of the flop TV series, “Walking Tall,” gave the school $7,000 for the privilege of hanging a sign on the auditorium — McNeal County Courthouse.
HONEY WAS A SWEET BUSINESS — Margleen “Honey” Warmuth was the owner of the famed Honey House & Honey Museum on Sierra Highway. Don’t look for it now. The rock building’s still there, but it’s a College of the Canyons campus office. Anywho. Ms. Margleen (“Honey” to her friends; she used to be my saddlemaker) noted that there were nine commercial beekeepers in the SCV and about 1,000 hobbyists. The Warmuths themselves watched over about 2,500 colonies all over Southern California, which produced between 3,000-6,000 pounds of honey per year. (Although bees have a heck of a work ethic, they can be picky. They won’t work in the cold or wet weather, and that sure can affect production during the February to August harvest.) That’s big work for their little black-and-yellow friends, considering each worker bee produces about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its short five-week lifespan. To produce that 1/12th teaspoon, the bee is very busy, working non-stop during his life. It takes about 55,000 miles of flight time for one hive to produce just one pound of honey.
Until then, big tip of the O’Farrell and a hearty — vayan con Dios amigos!
Boston is launching his own publishing house, John Boston Books. The first is a three-volume set is “Ghosts, Ghouls, Myths & Monsters — The Most Haunted Town in America.” That’d be us. In the meantime, you can buy Boston’s “Melancholy Samurai,” “Naked Came the Sasquatch” and other of his books at bit.ly/John_Boston. If you liked the book, would you mind leaving a kind 5-star review?